A marriage of bus and cargo

July 1, 2002
IT'S not entirely a bus. And it's not entirely a truck body. It's both. Universal Express Inc has obtained the exclusive North American rights to develop

IT'S not entirely a bus. And it's not entirely a truck body. It's both.

Universal Express Inc has obtained the exclusive North American rights to develop and market the patented Neoplan Intermodal Coach, which seats up to 35 passengers and yet is equipped with a 20' standardized container in the rear that has cargo capability of 11 tons.

Universal Express plans to sell and lease at least 3,000 vehicles over the next 10 years, at a price of $400,000 each.

“This motorcoach captures a second stream of revenue by adding to the already active bus passenger business,” says Cecilia Vesnesky of Universal Express. “Prior to this patent, buses simply haven't had the cargo-carrying space to move more than limited express packages.”

Says company president Richard Altomare, “This patent right, coupled with our growing infrastructure, energizes and should make Universal Express and other expeditors more independent of traditional and more expensive methods of shipping. With American fuel, insurance, labor, and other costs increasing, Universal Express and its affiliates have simply achieved a less expensive form of movement of luggage, packages, and mail.”

“It adds increased profitability to the economic potential of every bus mile,” says James Gaspard of Neoplan USA, North America's largest bus manufacturer. “In essence, buses have already covered their overhead, so they can price to win.”

Gaspard believes this new transportation paradigm could also have global impact and competitors will have costly barriers to overcome.

“Over the years, I have had ongoing discussions with numerous transportation executives regarding the potential of this vehicle and the industry,” Gaspard says. “Mr. Altomare has impressed us as a man of unusual vision and courageous action, and it seems that Universal Express has effectively beat the larger companies to the punch on this Intermodal Bus concept and other new cost-effective postal stores and shipping ideas. With this exclusive arrangement, Universal Express and its financing subsidiaries should become a formidable cash generator to rival any existing transportation company. The American dream of innovation, persistence, and a refusal to accept the status quo has just created, in our opinion, America's newest and most exciting company to watch.”

Strategic Alliances

Universal Express has established over the past year strategic alliance relationships with nationally recognized coach fabricators and manufacturers through the US, including US Coachworks and Viking Coachworks, with the specific purpose of manufacturing the retrofit of existing bus fleets to add freight-carrying capability for all buses.

“Universal Express can now offer operators nationwide the option of converting their present-day fleets to realize some of the extra revenues that are offered by the Expeditor intermodal cargo-bus configuration,” says David Russell, president of Universal Express Capital.

Russell says these initial manufacturers' facilities are located in key regions of the US, which enables the retrofit package to be offered nationwide without expensive and time-consuming transportation problems. Universal Express Capital will provide one-stop financing of this bus enhancement to quality bus operators.

“Optimizing operational revenues for bus companies and operators is the key element to the Universal Express Cargo Bus concept,” Altomare says. “Additionally, reducing shipping costs further improves the economics of our own shipping and logistics subsidiaries and affiliates. Therefore, this timely application of the intermodal philosophy via the quality retrofit of existing fleets in addition to the manufacturing orders of our Expeditor motor coach is the right fit at an important time for a challenged bus industry and a growing need for an affordable domestic delivery system for Universal Express and other cargo companies.”

Universal Express owns and operates several subsidiaries, including Universal Express Capital, Universal Express Logistics (including VirtualBellhop, WorldPost, and Luggage Express) and the Private Postal Network (PPN). These subsidiaries provide the private postal industry and consumers with value-added services and products, logistical services, equipment leasing, and cost-effective delivery of goods worldwide.

About the Author

Rick Weber | Associate Editor

Rick Weber has been an associate editor for Trailer/Body Builders since February 2000. A national award-winning sportswriter, he covered the Miami Dolphins for the Fort Myers News-Press following service with publications in California and Australia. He is a graduate of Penn State University.